Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Explore our latest coverage of environmental issues, climate change and more.

Renewed Call For Heating Fuel Fee To Fund Efficiency

Environmental advocates are calling for a new fee on heating oil and propane to help pay for expanded energy efficiency programs. 

The Public Service Board is being asked to recommend the fee in a report it’s preparing for legislators.

Earlier this year a bill that would have doubled the .5 percent excise tax levied on home heating fuels failed to make it out of a house committee in Montpelier.

At that time proponents of the increase were armed with a new report by Vermont’s Thermal Efficiency Task Force which recommended an increase in the tax on fuel oil, kerosene, propane, coal and natural gas.

This time, they hope to convince the Public Service Board to back a similar fee in a report it's preparing for legislators. The additional revenue would be used to meet the state’s goal of weatherizing 80,000 homes by 2020.  It’s hoped that would also help reduce the use of fossil fuel for heating in Vermont.

In a letter to the board Conservation Law Foundation attorney Sandra Levine suggests the PSB take an approach similar to what has already done with electricity, where a fee is added to utility bills to help pay for energy efficiency.

Levine says the fact a similar fee isn’t levied on fuel oil, propane, pipelines and fossil fuel power plants in Vermont represents a basic unfairness in how efficiency programs are funded.

“Let’s do for oil and propane customers the same as we do for electricity customers.  If anything, there’s a loophole currently that’s excluding oil and propane from really fully participating in broadening energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gases and reducing costs to customers throughout the state,” says Levine.

Levine says the board is in a better position than the Legislature to assess how to best implement a fee on fossil fuels.

Vermont Fuel Dealers Association executive director Matt Cota says he expects the issue to come up again when the Legislature reconvenes in January and, once again, his group will take the position it has in the past.

Cota says if the goal is to reduce fossil fuel use, that’s already happening without any additional fees being added to fuel oil.

“The unregulated efficiency market does a better job than the regulated one.  The amount of fuel, heating oil that we’ve consumed per home in Vermont has gone down dramatically – 60 percent over the last 40 years.  That’s far better than the regulated utilities,” he says.

Cota says market forces, such as rising prices and consumer demand for more efficiency, have driven fuel oil consumption down.  And he argues that any fee that adds to the cost of heating fuel is a regressive tax that will fall more heavily on lower-income Vermonters.

Supporters of the additional fee for fossil heating fuels argue that it’s important to reaching Vermont’s thermal efficiency goals - and they say weatherizing 80,000 homes will benefit those most in need of relief from high heating bills.

The Public Service Board is due to issue its report to legislators by Dec. 15.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
Latest Stories